Outreach Ideas - K-12
Doing outreach work is a very important part of getting the public or targeted groups involved and excited about science. The more informed and encouraged they feel, the greater stake they will take in participating in space programs, think about how the public vote assisted in overturning NASA's decision to not service Hubble...
Private schools and libraries are often easier entities to reach out to and cooperate with in bringing such programs to fruition, do not be afraid to approach organizations and business for assistance or location use permission, SEDS is a well known name in the scientific community and many are happy to work with us, you just need to make that first step!
Elementary School Outreach
For the youngest audiences it is important to emphasize how fun science can be and to keep information condensed in a simple manner. Here are some ideas for outreach activities for groups of elementary kids.
1) Arts and crafts: Drawing or connect the dots games that are space science themed, baking-make sure you have appropriate materials and permissions, painting, macaroni art, competitions, puzzles.
2) Story book times: Feel free to use both fictional and non-fiction works that illustrate science and keep it lively.
3) Presentations: Use lots of pictures, and trivia afterwards helps to keep the kids attention for your presentation duration, use things like stickers as rewards for getting the correct answers to questions you ask at the end.
4) Field trips: Museums, national parks, NASA centers, launches (if applicable), nearby observatories.
5) Bring out any telescope(s) and share the night sky with them, show the planets and moon, these are great crowd pleasers especially for kids!
Middle School Outreach
This is a great group to work with and a key time when kids start to lose interest in the sciences, so really reinforce how important and exciting this field is and encourage diversity! Here you will find you have more free reign on what topics the kids will be able to absorb without going into too much detail (example, do not go into equations describing wavelength's relation frequency, but go deeper than pointing out star color differences, try explaining why the stars are different colors).
1) Presentations: Share information with them that is a little more challenging than the elementary level, but remember to keep their attention with pictures and the occasional space joke or pun is often welcome by this age group (example, "Io looks like a pizza, but smells like rotten eggs!").
2) Hands-on projects: Create volcanoes that are proportional to ones on earth vs. on other planets/moons (Mars, Io, etc.) in this way talk about planetary science; Create a comet with liquid nitrogen and baking soda, build a model rocket or spacecraft.
3) Solar system distance scale: Place kids as planets to demonstrate the distances between objects in our solar system and to other stars.
4) Motion demonstrations: Place kids around the room to demonstrate motion in the universe (earth orbiting the sun, lunar orbit and synchronous rotation, solar system orbiting the galaxy, Milky Way's rotation and movement in local group, etc. be flexible with the needs of the audience).
5) Field trips: Museums, observatories, NASA and other space centers, astronaut speakers (this can be done through virtual means [Zoom, Google hangouts, Skype, etc] as well as in person by going to the NASA website and requesting a speaker, also SEDS has many contacts into this area so reach out to your chapter's leadership board and/or SEDS National for help acquiring a speaker).
6) Basic rocketry or robotics workshops: Guide them on building basic components and answer questions about basic engineering or RC mechanics.
7) Telescopes: Bring out any telescope(s) and share the night sky, planets and moon with them, it is a welcome chance to reinforce presentation material and these objects are sure to please them all.
High School Outreach
Here you have a greater range for imparting more advanced knowledge and skills but again, keep it lively and controlled, don't be afraid to introduce some math in your programs it will help develop their critical thinking skills and bridge some otherwise stagnant classes together for them to make space science a reality that is full of exciting problems and solutions.
1) Field trips: camping trips (make sure to cover all logistics including parental chaperones and/or waivers, enough support team members, food, campground permissions, etc.), museums, observatories, NASA and other space centers, astronaut speakers (especially while aboard the ISS, you can request guest speakers virtually with NASA on their website, also feel free to reach out to your chapter leadership board or SEDS National as there are many on contacts within the body of SEDS that would be willing to assist you).
2) Black hole rubber sheet demonstration: This kind of demonstration is a segue into talking about Einstein's general relativity and what it tells us about space on an introductory level and can get high school students thinking about how complicated and exciting geometry can be. You can use a trampoline, a rubber sheet, elastic fabric, along with balls like baseballs, marbles, grapefruit, etc.
3) Basic rocketry workshop: Build some small robotic crafts, work on a cubesat design, rovers, demonstrate basic engineering principals and use this time to explain some of the difficulties of engineering for use on earth vs. in space (extreme temperatures, cosmic rays, pressure difference, etc.).
4) Hands-on demonstrations/exhibits: Bring artifacts for examination (meteorite kits vs. geology on earth)
5) Telescopes: Share the night sky, planets and moon, and sun with proper filters (eclipses, transits and every day solar viewing).
6) Independent observations: Make them record observations of the night sky, keep a journal, or jot down any witnessed meteors.
7) Math and space science puzzles: Jigsaw puzzles or scavenger hunts with space science related math clues.
8) Kerbal space program: This is a great tool for teaching about orbital mechanics and demonstrating the gravitational field of celestial bodies, transfer orbits and timing of launch windows.
9) Models: Build a model rocket, lander, shuttle, space station, etc. or even make this into a competition, it is a good opportunity to talk about the competition between the USA and USSR in the 50s - 60s space race.
This is a nearly endless category for topics to cover with your group-including plenty of pictures is very important, a recommendation however would be to focus on a theme or coordinate with the teachers on what they have been learning in classes to help make the most impact (example, they have been doing a lot of geology studies so focus on planetary science or comets and meteorites).
1) Comets, Asteroids and Meteorites
3) Astronomical history (any era, field, or event)
5) Atmospheric phenomena
6) Planetary science and moons
7) Black holes
8) Moon landing: YES it did happen!
9) Rockets, satellites and spacecraft
10) Human space exploration, living in space
11) Chemistry and space science